The latest and final version of the Volkswagen Beetle has been unveiled at the LA Auto Show. VW is preparing to turn its focus towards a future of mass-market electric cars.
The final version of the VW Beetle, named the Beetle Final Edition, was revealed on Saturday at the Los Angeles Auto Show. A spokesman for the German automaker said there are no plans for further versions of the iconic vehicle, but added the caveat, "We're never going to say never."
"This is a really important edition of the Beetle because it's the last one that'll be made as far as we know," said Mark Gillies, Senior Manager for Product Communications at Volkswagen US.
The final version of the classic car comes as the American branch of the automaker turns its attention to mass-market electric cars to appeal to a new generation of environmentally conscious consumers — children and grandchildren of the 1960s Beetle enthusiasts.
Volkswagen announced the last of its iconic Beetle compact cars would roll off assembly lines in 2019. While there will be two special models manufactured before production ceases, it's the original "Bug" that still generates the most emotion among its fans. DW looks at how views of the "people's car" have changed over the decades.
Hitler wants a 'People Car'
In the 1930s, Nazi ruler Adolf Hitler tapped Ferdinand Porsche (L) to design a "Volkswagen," or "people's car" — an affordable, mass-market vehicle that could carry a family and luggage. He came up with a two-door, rear-engine vehicle that could cruise at top speeds of 100 km/h (62 m/hr). Initial production of the car remained small.
The Beetle booms
Sales of the car, officially named the Type 1, picked up after the British, one of Germany's post-WWII occupying powers, relaunched Volkswagen factory production. In 1955, the millionth car rolled off the assembly line. It was only then that the rounded car earned its nickname "the Beetle." The moniker was then carried over into numerous languages as sales of the car spread around the globe.
From film to driveways
It took a while for the Beetle to become popular in the US, however, in part due to the car's Nazi roots. But a 1960s marketing rebrand and the car's starring role in the 1968 movie "The Love Bug" as Herbie (above), a Beetle with a mind of its own, sealed its place in the hearts of Americans — and in their garages.
The Beetle is back
Beetle sales in the US plummeted in the 1970s and production there ceased in 1979. By that time, the car was being produced around the world, including in Mexico and Latin America. In the 1990s, VW decided to give the car another go in the US. They revamped the design and released the New Beetle (above) in 1998, complete with a built-in flower vase.
Saying 'adios' to the original
As the New Beetle took off in the US, global production of the original Type 1 Beetle came to an end. By July 30, 2003, when the last of its kind came off the production belt in Puebla, Mexico, over 21,500,000 had been produced. The final car (above) received a ceremonial sendoff complete with mariachi band. Dubbed "El Rey" ("the king"), the car was sent to VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.
Despite no longer being made, the original Beetle remained popular and recognizable, often linked to 1960s nostalgia. However, it also made a political statement. While holding the post of Uruguay's president from 2010-2015, Jose Mujica continued to use his 1987 Beetle to get around (above). The old car, part of his personal abstention from luxury, cemented his reputation as a humble politician.
A place in drivers' hearts
The VW entered its third generation in 2012, with the production of a new model in the US. But just six years later VW said it would cease making the car in 2019, instead focusing on electric and family vehicles. VW's CEO left the door open to revive the much beloved Beetle in the future. Until then, however, the iconic car will continue to hold a place in the hearts of old and young alike.
VW's Nazi origins The Beetle has its roots in Germany's Nazi era. It was first developed with support from Adolf Hitler. The Nazi ruler ordered the carmaker in 1934 to create a mass-market "people's car," or "Volkswagen," and in 1937 formed the state-run company to develop it.
The Beetle became an icon of the country's rebirth after World War II. A second model made more than 500,000 sales worldwide after its 1998 launch. The car was updated in 2012, and the final model will be available in 2019.
The "Bug" made its US debut in the 1950s, but sales were weak, partly due to the company's Nazi origins.
In 1959, the car was christened the "Beetle" by an advertising agency, who began touting the Beetle's small size as an advantage to consumers, according to the History Channel.
The car attained further popularity with the 1968 Disney movie "The Love Bug," the story of a racing Volkswagen with a mind of its own.
Globally, VW is struggling to recover from the Dieselgate scandal, which broke in 2015 and brought with it legal claims totaling billions over the installation of defeat devices into 11 million cars worldwide to fool regulatory emissions tests.
The disaster unfolds
About two weeks after Volkswagen admitted behind closed doors to US environmental regulators that it had installed cheating software in some 11 million of its diesel vehicles worldwide, the Environmental Protection Agency shared that information with the public. It was September 18, 2015. The ensuing crisis would eventually take a few unexpected turns.
The boss must go, long live the boss
Volkswagen's then-CEO Martin Winterkorn (above) had little choice but to step down several days after news of the scandal broke. In September, he tendered his resignation, but retained his other posts within the Volkswagen Group. Winterkorn's successor was Matthias Müller. Until taking the reins at VW, Müller had been the chairman at Porsche, a VW subsidiary.
Regulators in the US weren't the only ones investigating VW. Authorities in Lower Saxony, the German state in which VW is based, were also scrutinizing the company. On October 8, state prosecutors raided VW's headquarters along with several other corporate locations.
Hell breaks loose
On January 4, 2016, the US government filed a lawsuit against VW in Detroit, accusing the German automaker of fraud and violations of American climate protection regulations. The lawsuit sought up to $46 billion for violations of the Clean Air Act.
Quit or forced out?
In March, the head of VW in the US, Michael Horn, resigned. In the initial days and weeks after the scandal broke, he was the one US authorities turned to for information. He issued an official apology on behalf of the automaker, asking for the public's forgiveness.
On October 25, a US judge approved a final settlement that would have VW pay $15.3 billion. In addition, affected cars would be retrofitted with better, non-deceptive hardware and software, or else VW would buy them back completely from customers.
When dieselgate first emerged in 2015, analysts said it was likely other car makers were also cheating tests. But it wasn't until 2017 that other companies were targeted in probes. In July, German authorities launched investigations into luxury car makers Porsche and Daimler for allegedly cheating emissions tests. Others, such as Audi and Chrysler, have also been hit by similar allegations.
Public still supportive
Despite dieselgate, VW has managed to keep the emissions scandal from utterly tarnishing its image. According to several polls, between 55 to 67 percent of Germans continue to trust the automaker. In the US, polls show that roughly 50 percent still believe the German company produces worthwhile vehicles.
Fuming over monkeys
In late January, however, VW suffered another heavy blow over reports that the company experimented on monkeys and made the animals inhale diesel fumes. To make matters worse, a separate experiment that had humans inhale relatively harmless nitrogen dioxide was revealed at the same time. Some media wrongly interpreted this to mean humans were also inhaling toxic fumes.